The phrase “secret society” refers to a broad range of elite and covert groups, many of which have been around for centuries and include some of the most significant personalities in history. Our interest is aroused by secret societies because they frequently conceal their goals and actions from the general public and non-members. The goals of these exclusive groups are usually not evil, though there are exceptions. For example, certain college clubs can be classified as secret societies because they follow secret rituals and traditions whose symbolism and mystique foster a sense of community and common purpose. The most well-known secret societies have had a significant impact on history, influencing labor and religious movements as well as governments. These organizations are very covert, thus it can be difficult to determine their historical beginnings, and historians and academics frequently disagree on them. Here are six odd facts about these enigmatic organizations, ranging from the Freemasons’ medieval beginnings to Cicada 3301.
One of the Oldest Secret Societies in the World Is Still Active Today
The origins of the Freemasons can be traced to the guilds of expert stonemasons who set standards for stoneworkers’ qualifications during the Middle Ages. Stonemasons had to travel for their work, which promoted an open-minded outlook. After its founding in England in 1717, the modern Freemasonry movement swiftly expanded throughout Europe and the American colonies. The group set standards for its members’ moral and spiritual principles in addition to stonemasonry. Currently, there are more than 6 million Freemasons worldwide. Although the society has been practicing secret rituals since the 18th century, including as handshakes, passwords, and symbols, they have recently started to modernize and become more transparent. In their 300-year history, the Freemasons published their first annual report in 2021.
Aiming for Universal Enlightenment, the Real Illuminati
Since the fifteenth century, numerous groups—both genuine and imagined—have gone by the term “Illuminati.” However, the Bavarian Illuminati, formerly known as the Order of the Illuminati, is the group most closely associated with the name, having existed for nearly 250 years. German scholar Adam Weishaupt established the brief secret organization in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, in 1776 with the goal of establishing “a state of liberty and moral equality, freed from the obstacles which subordination, rank, and riches, continually throw in our way.” Inspired by the French Enlightenment intellectuals and Freemasons, Weishaupt established a secret society that grew to over 2,000 members throughout Bavaria, France, Hungary, Italy, and other areas where the ideals of the Enlightenment were gaining traction. In 1784, the Bavarian government finally disbanded the Illuminati and forbade the formation of any organizations that were not legally permitted. However, other people thought the society vanished, giving rise to a variety of conspiracy theories connecting the organization to historical occurrences such as the French Revolution and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
America's Oldest Secret Society of Black Women Was Founded by Enslaved Women
The histories of many secret societies with male-only memberships abound, yet women have also had a part in founding these covert organizations. Annetta M. Lane and Harriet R. Taylor, two former slaves, founded the United Order of Tents in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1867, making it the oldest Black women’s organization in the US. It is thought that the group, which has branches still in existence across the country, assisted with Underground Railroad operations. The organization turned the Black community’s moment of need around by offering mutual aid and support during the turbulent Reconstruction era, acting as a “tent of salvation.”
A Video Game Franchise Was Inspired by an Ancient Secret Society
The Nizari Ismailis were a significant faction of Shiite Muslims in Persia and Syria in the eleventh century. To outwit their adversaries, which included Christian Crusaders traveling to the Holy Land, the group employed guerilla warfare. Hated by neighboring Muslim communities, they were called Hashishin, an insulting Arabic term meaning “hashish user,” which Crusaders later translated into English as “Assassins,” where it came to denote a hired assassin. The Nizari Ismailis are still legendary even though they were subjugated by the Mongols in the thirteenth century. The Assassins and the Knights Templar, a military organization founded in the 12th century and approved by the Catholic Church, are the focal points of the fictionalized universe in the video game “Assassin’s Creed.” While they protected Christian pilgrims and Crusader governments in the Holy Land, the Knights Templar had different goals from the Nizari Ismailis. There is no historical proof that the two groups engaged in combat, despite the fact that their dates overlap.
A Closeted Group Has Its Own Premier Summer Camp
Maybe the only exclusive society with an exclusive summer camp of its own is the Bohemian Club. Established in 1872 in San Francisco as a private club for journalists, painters, and singers, the Bohemian Club later extended its membership to encompass global economic and political figures. The club’s 2,700-acre privately owned campground, Bohemian Grove, is located in Sonoma County’s redwood trees. It serves as a meeting spot for a two-week summer encampment that features historical-altering secret rituals, performances, and private conversations. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan are said to have chosen who would seek the Republican presidential nomination at the Bohemian Grove camp in 1967. Scientist Robert Oppenheimer attended a September 1942 S-1 Executive Committee planning meeting in Bohemian Grove to finalize plans for the Manhattan Project, which resulted in the creation of the atomic bomb. It’s hardly unexpected that the group has been the target of protests, conspiracy theories, and, most recently, a lawsuit alleging wage theft and labor violations given its exclusive and privileged membership and customs.
Online is Becoming a Haven for New Secret Societies
Even though covert groups have been around for millennia, the internet has recently led to the emergence of new ones. Cicada 3301 is one of the most mysterious; it first surfaced online in 2012. The company presented a series of intricate digital puzzles based on cryptographic techniques like ciphers, codes, and steganography, claiming to be looking for “highly intelligent individuals.” It took extensive understanding of coding, computing, literature, art, and other subjects to solve the problems. Although no attempt was ever made to commercialize the puzzles, there were rumors that the riddles were being used as a recruiting tool for intelligence organizations and that they might be part of the promotion of a new game. After figuring out the first problems, players were given more difficulties and login information for a darknet website. The group’s identity is still a mystery, and they haven’t said much since 2014.